Health Service Focus

26.04.16

Lessons to learn from commissioning support closures

Source: NHE Mar/Apr 16

Two northern commissioning support units (CSUs) were closing their doors as NHE went to press, with uncertainty remaining over potential job losses. David Stevenson reports.

As NHE reported last year, Yorkshire and Humber Commissioning Support (YHCS) and North West Commissioning Support Unit (NWCSU) were the only two CSUs to fail to get on the Commissioning Support Lead Provider Framework (LPF) for the full range of ‘end-to-end’ support services. 

This put their viability into doubt, and from 1 April 2016 the two CSUs closed their doors with services transferred to new providers. 

NHS England told us in August last year that there were likely to be some redundancies at the two organisations, which collectively employed more than 2,100 people. Since then, we have been told there is an ongoing consultation with regards to redundancies, but “many” have transferred over to the new providers or CCGs. This was to be done in a way to “avoid service fragmentation” while reducing job losses. 

eMBED in Yorkshire & Humber 

However, Charlie Carruth, health lead in the Yorkshire & Humber region for Unison, told NHE that there were lots of lessons to be learned from the process and “it hadn’t been the smoothest of transfers”. 

In December it was announced that the private sector health consortium eMBED, which brings together Mouchel, BDO LLP (BDO), Engine and Dr Foster, won the contract to provide end-to-end commissioning support services to 23 CCGs in Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Thought to be the largest commissioning support service contract won by a private provider, the deal is worth £68.4m over four years and arrangements have been in place to transfer approximately 300 staff from the old CSU. The contract will include the delivery of ICT services to the region’s GP practices. 

Simon Godfrey-Arnold, MD of eMBED, said: “We are very much looking forward to providing effective support to those responsible for both commissioning and delivering healthcare in the region and in doing so having an impact on the health of individuals and localities in Yorkshire & Humber.” 

However, North of England CSU has been awarded the contract to provide continuing healthcare and medicines optimisation in Yorkshire & Humber. 

Carruth said that during the transition there were a lot of issues that hadn’t been resolved in a timely manner, and that there had been some redundancies. “I think NHS England have to be good at not just the big picture stuff, but the small picture stuff as well. But at the moment I don’t think they are as responsive as they can be at the micro level,” he said. 

“The date was fixed when the CSU wasn’t going to be there anymore, and the transfer of staff has happened. But I do think there are still some staff that are unclear about what will happen to them in the future.” 

North West split to CGG & CSU 

Over the Pennines, NWCSU stated that from 1 April the Greater Manchester Shared Services (GMSS) element of its operation will transfer to Oldham CCG. 

But the Cheshire and Merseyside services of NWCSU transferred to Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit on 1 March. 

Following discussions on the transfer, Wendy Allison, Unison north west regional organiser, told us that CSU functions are important in the operation of the NHS. “We believe that this co-ordinating role is best performed by staff employed within the NHS,” she said. “We will continue to work to support the skilled and dedicated staff we represent.”  

An NHS England spokesperson told us where the two CSUs failed to gain a place on the LPF, “many of their services will transition safely to new providers in a way that avoids service fragmentation and seeks to minimise redundancies”. 

Contract awards 

He added that one-third of CCGs have already awarded contracts under the LPF and the rest will launch their procurements during April to July. 

“CCGs across the country are using the LPF to choose the best providers for their needs, driving up quality and cost efficiencies and delivering better services for patients,” he said. 

“Potential commissioning support providers, including NHS CSUs, were independently assessed against high standards to secure a place on the LPF, ensuring commissioners have access to consistently high-quality expertise.”

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